On this page, we explain ways in which how impoverished members of the South African community find it difficult to access healthcare services as set out in the national health act of 2003,

Background on South African Healthcare Services and Access

South Africa remains an unequal society, where the quality and type of services people receive tends to be influenced significantly by their socio-economic status and ability to access to services, regardless of the level of need for care. The majority of people in South Africa depend on public health care facilities to access their right to health care services. A small number of people are able to afford private medical care. In its 2016 General Household Survey Statistics South Africa reported that only 17 of every 100 South Africans have medical insurance, and as many as 45 million or 82 out of every 100 South Africans fall outside the medical aid net and, are largely dependent on public health care. The number of people who depend on the public health system in South Africa is likely to be much higher as a number of people who are undocumented also rely primarily on the public health system to access health care services.

Accessing healthcare services as set out in the national health act of 2003

The Constitution and the National Health Act 61 of 2003 (as amended) envisage a single health system for South Africa. However, in addition to public health care a number of private health care service providers exist in country.

  • The State uses a means test to determine who qualifies for access to free medical services. In addition, the Minister of Health may from time to time determine who is eligible for basic health care services.
  • The right to access health care includes pregnant or lactating women and pregnant women who are eligible for termination of pregnancy services in accordance with the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act 92 of 1996.
  • In addition, all children are entitled to access basic health care, which right is reinforced by the special protections for the rights of children entrenched in Section 28 of the Constitution.
  • The right to health care can however be limited in certain instances, depending on the availability of resources. However, the right cannot be denied completely.

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